I have created a sport of making the fewest trips possible when unloading my car. I survey the contents of my car, quickly develop a game plan, and execute. Having lived by myself for most of the last decade, my skills are pretty well developed. I line my outstretched arms with full grocery bags, throw my backpack on my shoulders, and juggle any remaining items in my hands. While my abilities have improved over time, I still have misjudgments in what I can successfully balance and manage. So, today, instead of risking a fall, I admit defeat and take another trip to finish bringing in my boxes. Aging is no joke.
In recent weeks I have been purging items from my parents’ home as my mother prepares to sell the house and move. This means I frequently come home with random sentimental items from my childhood that I would rather keep than throw away. It is not far fetched to say my father was a secret hoarder. (Let me clarify: He was not the type of hoarder featured on those ‘Dateline’ specials where lost pets are found underneath layers of rotten food.) He was primarily a paper hoarder, and his collection was extensive. And to his credit, most everything was meticulously organized and filed. I wonder if my friends think I am exaggerating when I refer to my dad as a hoarder. I wonder if they believe me when I confirm via Snap Chat that there is a commercial grade dumpster in the driveway…that is absolutely filled to capacity….with trash.
(Total side-note but may I tell you that this process has inspired a sort of minimalist movement in my own life? The practice of de-cluttering, cleansing, and living more in line with minimalism is so very appealing to me. I have so much I want to write, share, and talk about on this topic. And it seems to be something I am moving towards as a result of a spiritual shift and deepening in my core rather than another “check list” or “practice” I am doing in an effort to be changed. It is wild, and I love it! But, here I am getting off topic and one step closer to singing Kum-Ba-Yah!)
Back to the current blog: The task to de clutter, purge, and move all these things can at times be overwhelming. It’s more than just an afternoon of cleaning out a closet or making a donation to a local charity’s thrift store. This is a gut wrenching duty of delving through years of a life that seems to provide more confusion and questions than healing and answers. When I closed his dental practice, the packing and move from his office was much more methodical. I purged, packed, and moved swiftly to exit. I wasn’t bothered by the sentimentality of it all. At least that is how I think I felt during that time. I confided in Haley that I do not remember much of the few months following dad’s death. I told her I was embarrassed of things I said or didn’t say, do or didn’t do, and even entire events that I have no recollection of. I asked her if she experienced the same. She had. She understood exactly. She likened that time in our grief to a fog. “Perhaps,” she said, “The fog is way God protects us.” I think she is right. Our crushed spirits saved from the raw reality.
But now, months later, the fog has lifted and the shock state subsided. No longer coping with Krispy Kreme and chardonnay, I feel raw, exposed, and alone. (I am not actually alone. A tribe of family, friends, and strangers has assembled so beautifully. Yep, it does take a village) If I scoop everything in my arms and inhale, I wonder if I can capture his scent? It’s a mixture of Clubman after shave, Halls cough drops, and that very specific powder smell from his dental gloves. I had touched his pink suspenders and seersucker suit, hoping to absorb what was left of his essence.
Back in the bungalow, I take stock of the items I unloaded from my car. It’s an assortment of boxes I filled with things from my childhood. I can purge like a professional when it comes to trashing an owner’s manual for a Weed Eater that croaked in 1993, but I am not emotionally ready to address the ‘identity’ of my youth. Decisions about Popples, my Sheila cabbage patch doll, and Frog and Toad books will have to be made later. And for the comfort of my fellow American Girls, I will let you know that Kirsten is neatly dressed in her pink Birthday dress, white apron, and daisy wreath. The pioneer gal is ready for summer officially, but she will have to remain in a box for now. I am not willing to take any chances of becoming a ‘doll lady’(a much worse plight than a ‘cat lady’)
I decide, however, to find a spot for the vintage champagne bottle. My mother said it was the bottle of champagne from their wedding night. A token they had kept from their wedding day. Growing up I was not the girl who planned out every single detail of her wedding. I loved weddings, but I loved “love” more. LOVE was exciting. LOVE made the main characters in the play burst into songs. Long before my hormones kicked in, I think I thought more about the honeymoon than the wedding. It just sounded so neat. It was a question that adults always seemed to ask the bride, “Where are you going on your honeymoon?” And then everyone ‘ooh and awed’ and smiled with excitement. Sounded fun to me! On Sundays, my father would pull apart the newspaper and leave out the sections he knew I would want to read. It was always the same: the Comics, Dear Abby, the Weddings, and Straight Talk(a hilarious section of printed feedback from subscribers who called in to the local paper. I am not sure, but I think it is sadly no longer a column.) The wedding write ups always ended with a sentence about where the couple would honeymoon and where they would make their new home. That was my favorite part to read—where would their adventure lead to!?!
I thought about my own wedding today, one I do not imagine or dream about much, outside of an occasionally Pinterest pin I save “just in case.” It is my wedding, and my father is not there. My daddy is no longer part of the dream that I really never allow myself to dream anyway. If only getting a new Popple could do the trick today. I reconsider my thoughts.
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”-Psalm 34:18
My God, my Eternal father is near. He is with me, as my tribe is with me, therefore I am NEVER alone. I may not have an epic viral video of a Father daughter wedding day dance, but I had an earthly father who, for thirty years as my daddy, beautifully illustrated God’s love for His children. His life reflected that Eternal and Divine Love that I cling to today:
My God is reconciled; His pardoning voice I hear;
He owns me for His child; I can no longer fear:
With confidence I now draw nigh,
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And “Father, Abba, Father,” cry.
I contemplate this idea a little bit more, which is challenging when you are restricting carbohydrates and have committed yourself to a Barre method exercise challenge. Perhaps I am hallucinating. Kiddingnotkidding. So, this same God, who I call Father, is that for ALL His children. You, too, my friends. You are not alone. Perhaps you grew up without a dad or the one who fathered you just plain sucks. Your idea of God may be something that is radically different than His true identity because it’s based on an idea you constructed from your experience. I cannot pretend to understand the deep wounds that were created in some of you, sweet friends, as a result of absent, distant, and abusive fathers. I can, with great confidence, tell you that your identity and your worth are not defined in those things.
“Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. God’s love for you and his choice of you constitute your worth. Accept that, and let it become the most important thing in your life.” –Brennan Manning
Perhaps if we shift our thinking towards this, we can accept what that form of identity means for us. The Psalms(68:5) calls Him, “Father to the fatherless, defender of widows.” We can fully trust God with our lives: the past, present, and future.
He heals our wounds, and He is our Counselor(and we don’t have to worry if He accepts our insurance. Whoop!) Oswald Chambers wrote regarding our past and future,
“Our yesterdays present irreparable things to us; it is true that we have lost opportunities which will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ. Leave the Irreparable Past in His hands, and step out into the Irresistible Future with Him.”
And that ‘stepping out’ is where we are today. This moment—the here and the now. Our identity in Him is not just about ‘securing a spot in Heaven,’ it is everything about WHO we are today. Brennan Manning understood His identity as Abba’s child:
“My identity as Abba’s child is not an abstraction or a tap dance into religiosity. It is the core truth of my existence. Living in the wisdom of accepted tenderness profoundly affects my perception of reality, the way I respond to people and their life situations. How I treat my brothers and sisters from day to day, whether they be Caucasian, African, Asian, or Hispanic; how I react to the sin-scarred wino on the street; how I respond to interruptions from people I dislike; We are not for life simply because we are warding off death. We are sons and daughters of the Most High and maturing in tenderness to the extent that we are for others—all others—to the extent that no human flesh is strange to us, to the extent that we can touch the hand of another in love, to the extent that for us there are no ‘others.’ “
This Father’s Day week, my prayer is that each of you feel God’s presence a little closer to you, and take comfort in His never failing love. And to you dads out there hustling and loving your youngins, I hope you feel loved, valued, and are celebrated by many this week!!! Happy Father’s Day! You are loved.